On the morning of 28th May several tourists and I observed Viking Energy contractors committing what appeared to be a criminal act while accessing the data mast site on Mid Kame.
This was reckless disturbance of a pair of red-throated divers on Petta Water by the driving of a tracked vehicle close by the north end of this loch to access the top of Mid Kame. The tracked vehicle was in the vicinity of the loch during the whole of 28th May. This act was repeated again on Thursday 3rd June.
At the April meeting the SIC planning board passed a condition that there would be no activity in the area during the bird-breeding season. This condition appears to have been rescinded later at Viking Energy’s behest. However, strict conditions on access routes to data mast sites were laid down by SIC planning officers.
The planning condition imposed for Mid Kame is: “It is recommended that as far as is possible the actual route taken is kept to the west side of Mid Kame ridge summit, i.e. close to the N-S orientated fence line indicated on the 1:25000 OS map.” This route was also endorsed by SNH.
By using an east-west route from the main road to Mid Kame close to the north end of Petta Water, Viking Energy was blatantly ignoring planning conditions, also advice from SNH which it claims to work closely with. In recklessly disturbing a pair of red-throated divers, which had been on the loch for at least a week, Viking Energy has displayed a callous disregard for Shetland’s wildlife and environment. Because of this a formal complaint has now been made to SNH and I believe police enquiries are pending.
If you saw a tracked vehicle crossing the valley just north of Petta Water between 28th May and 4th June and consider that the red-throated divers were being disturbed you can also make a formal complaint to SNH or direct to Lerwick Police Station.
All this raises the question as to why data masts have to be erected in the bird-breeding season anyway? The data collected will only be meaningful or statistically significant after a long period of data capture, i.e. at least three years. Thus these masts have nothing to do with the present planning application.
If the masts have nothing to do with the windfarm planning application then why not wait until the end of the summer before erecting them and avoid disturbance to nesting birds?
Perhaps this is another example of flawed judgment and lack of understanding of Shetland’s natural environment by Viking Energy’s project co-ordinator. Surely a project co-ordinator who is also an SIC councillor should be much better at co-ordination and liaison between SIC planning and Viking Energy.
Another question is: who is paying for this unnecessary work and who will pay the fines if police enquiries result in a successful prosecution? Shetland Charitable Trust is ultimately paying the wages of the project co-ordinator, an ex-director of Viking Energy and ex-charitable trust member, so I guess the charitable trust will dig deep into Shetland’s pensioner pockets to pay any fines incurred.